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Unemployment and Social Security Benefits

Can I collect both?

En español | Q. If I'm collecting an unemployment check and decide to take my Social Security benefits at 62, will there be any effect on the unemployment check or the Social Security check? Can I collect both? I'm a Florida resident.

A. As far as Social Security is concerned, it's OK to receive both checks at once — your retirement benefit would not be affected. Indeed, if you find a job and continue to work after 62, Social Security will not count any unemployment benefits you get as part of the $14,160 that you're allowed to earn in 2011 before an earnings penalty against benefits kicks in.

See also: Will a layoff reduce Social Security benefits?

What, then, is the story at your Florida unemployment office? As it happens, most states, Florida among them, will not reduce your unemployment benefit if you're getting Social Security. So you should be able to collect two full checks.

Residents of other states who need to know their state's policy on this question should contact their local unemployment office. A list is available at the Labor Department website CareerOneStop. It's important to get detailed information on how different kinds of income can affect unemployment benefits — an unemployment check may be reduced if the person is collecting a private pension, for instance.

Q. I began taking my retirement benefits at age 69 but am still working full time. I'm still paying Social Security taxes, which are deducted each week from my paycheck. Will my Social Security benefits go up?

A. Your monthly benefits are based, in large part, on your earnings during the highest-paid 35 years of your work life. If, as you continue to work, your annual earnings are high enough to replace any of your earlier 35 years, Social Security will boost your monthly benefits. If your earnings aren't high enough for that, your benefit will remain the same. For details, see "Your Retirement Benefit, How It Is Figured."

Also of interest:  Top 25 Social Security questions. >>

Stan Hinden, a former columnist for the Washington Post, wrote How to Retire Happy: The 12 Most Important Decisions You Must Make Before You Retire. Have a question for the Social Security Mailbox? Check out the archive. If you don't find your answer there, send a query.

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